Electrolytes: When and How to Use Them - Lakeside Natural Medicine

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Electrolytes: When and How to Use Them

ByKatarina Meister, ND February 21, 2024

Electrolytes are essential minerals that are vital to key functions in the body. The main electrolytes in the body include sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and phosphate

The number one electrolyte in the body is sodium. Sodium plays a critical role in maintaining hydration, helping the cells maintain the right balance of fluid and absorb nutrients.

This is a continuation of the discussion on electrolytes – if you have yet to read my first post on electrolytes click here.

Electrolytes maintain fluid balance in the body, thus keeping you hydrated, and help to transport nutrients into your body and waste out of your body. They also regulate muscle contraction and chemical reactions in your body. All in all, they allow for optimal bodily function. Electrolytes do not have a direct effect on energy, but aid in the body’s processes that control energy production, such as making ATP, the primary energy currency of the cell.

We lose electrolytes when we urinate and sweat. We also lose electrolytes when we are sick (especially when experiencing vomiting and diarrhea).

When to Take Electrolytes:

  • If you see white chalk on your clothing after a workout – you probably lost of a lot of salt and thus need electrolyte replenishment. OR if you were exercising for an extended length of time –typically over an hour – for example running a half marathon or a full marathon. Athletes typically experience heavy losses in sodium, losing several grams at a time, up to 10g at a time!
  • If you were exercising in a hot or humid area (hot yoga!)
  • After drinking alcohol – alcohol dehydrates you, as it is a diuretic.
  • After episodes of vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Fasting for longer than 8hrs – Electrolytes will not break your fast!
  • If you experience symptoms of dehydration (dark-colored urine, dry skin, dry mouth, feeling thirsty, fatigue, headaches or migraines, constipation, dizziness or feeling light-headedness, or low blood pressure)
  • If you are eating <4-6g of sodium per day in your whole foods diet – don’t be afraid to salt your food!

On average you can get most of your electrolytes through whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. Most people only need electrolytes when they encounter a situation listed above.

The best time of day to drink electrolytes can be after a workout, illness, or in the morning (Most people wake up slightly dehydrated due to an extended period of time without water during sleep).

Types of Electrolytes & When To Use Them

Sports Drinks (Ex: Gatorade, Powerade): Electrolytes (sodium in particular) have been used for decades to aid athlete’s hydration status. The problem with these sports drinks is that they often have a lot of sugar, moderate amounts of carbohydrates, and artificial food dyes. While sports drinks containing sugar do help your body absorb water, it is not the best fit for someone who is not engaging in intense exercise.

Coconut Water: I love that this is a natural food option for electrolyte replacement. This can be used to replace electrolytes, due to its content of essential minerals (potassium, calcium sodium, and magnesium). However, it contains high amounts of natural sugar so should be reserved for intense or high electrolyte replacement needs.

Himalayan Sea Salt + Lemon Juice + Water: This homemade concoction provides a small amount of electrolytes, which is good for enhancing daily hydration. This drink does contain electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The exact quantities will vary on the amount of lemon and sea salt used. This is not the best option for more intense electrolyte replacement needs.

Powdered, low-sugar options:

  • Ultima Electrolytes: Each serving contains 47mg calcium, 260mg potassium, 100mg magnesium, 90mg of chloride, 70mg of phosphorous, and 55mg of sodium. There is 0g of sugar. The sweetener is stevia. As you can compare the different brand, this offers the lowest amount of electrolytes per serving. This brand is best used for daily use of supporting hydration or mild exercise.
  • Batch Electrolytes: Batch is a local CBD company that just created an electrolyte powder with real food ingredients such as evaporated coconut water, pink Himalayan sea salt, and ginger root extract (anti-inflammatory). It is low in sugar (1g Sugar/serving)! The sugar used in this powder is zero calorie, and zero glycemic index natural sweetener. Each packet contains 2000mg of electrolytes with 560mg of Sodium, 400mg of Potassium, 100mg of Magnesium, 100mg of Calcium, and 815mg of Chloride. This brand is great for moderate to intense electrolyte replacement needs.
  • Nuun Electrolytes: This brand offers a wide variety of electrolytes based on your needs.
    • Nuun Daily: Each tablet contains 30mg of calcium, 20mg of Magnesium, 75mg chloride, 200mg sodium, and 125mg potassium.Sweetened with stevia. As the name suggests, its best for daily hydration needs.
    • Nuun Sport: Each tablet contains 13mg of calcium, 25mg of magnesium, 40mg of chloride, 300mg of sodium, and 150mg of potassium. Sweetened with stevia. Again, as the name suggests it is best used for sports or after a mild to moderate intensity workout.
  • LMNT Electrolytes: Each Packet contains 1,000mg sodium, 200mg potassium, and 60mg magnesium. I love that there is no sugar in this brand. The science behind these electrolytes is also fascinating, check out that here. As you can see, this is the highest-containing sodium brand of electrolytes. I typically reserve this brand for intense electrolyte replacement needs. For moderate intense replacement needs you can use half a pack at a time.
  • Zyn Turmeric Electrolyte Drink Mix: Zyn is a local company that makes amazing turmeric drinks. Their electrolyte drink mix contains 300 mg curcumin (from turmeric), electrolytes, and 100% of the recommended daily values of vitamins C, D, and zinc. This is ideal for not only rapid recovery post sickness and/or exercise, but also to reduce inflammation thanks to the curcumin content.

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

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